Toward a better business strategy

Let’s talk strategy. And let’s talk progress. The latter is probably possible without the former, but you’re likely to feel as though you merely got lucky—and you’ll probably fall short of your goals. On the other hand, a well-planned strategy is pretty much a guarantee of success. (Just remember that, somewhat ironically, while you’re working on that optimal strategy, for a time it may seem as though you’re standing still.

That’s all I’m going to say about my long silence on the blog, anyway.)

I first had the opportunity to guide a small branding studio in the formulation of its company strategy years ago. More such projects followed, and each time I led a team in the act of writing down every strand of its professional DNA, the clarity this brought to the business was astonishing. All of a sudden, there would exist this logical and inspired source containing the answers to all possible questions. Now, website copy, one-pager content and employee bios were a simple copy-paste away from completion. Every tactical brief was already halfway filled out. And founders and employees were armed with honed answers to questions from potential clients and other key targets (plus they also had new knowledge of just who these people are).

In the spring, it occurred to me to take myself and my up-and-coming business through a similar professional strategy process. I was interested in defining (at long last...) my own area of expertise—and not by “finally picking a specialty” but rather by synthesizing my skills and interests into a credible, cohesive, multifaceted whole. I had struggled enough with picking a major in college and for two more decades I struggled further, assuming that there existed a narrow field just for me and my mission was to find it. This time, I was curious whether I might in fact discover a common element linking linguistics, writing, photography, design and workflow ergonomics. Thus, I decided it was worth taking the long way to the ultimate shortcut toward updating my website, pitching my business, conducting my projects and planning my career.

A good four months (and six mostly single-spaced pages) later, I’m thrilled to report that I’m blown away with my results. Not only have I found the commonalities among my different disciplines, but I’ve also realized that in each I ultimately perform a variation on the same overarching theme. Since you asked—I remove the unnecessary to reveal what is relevant. My brand values, in turn, are the following: Simplicity. Clarity. Logic. Purpose. Functionalism. Precision. Order. Quality. Purity. Truth. Poise. Sometimes—irony. And they’re in there just like that, each its own microsentence, actually embodying the characteristics referenced in the preceding section (a smidge too formal, perhaps; very clear and ordered; often seen as dramatic...).

In addition to arriving at what I think is a pretty useful mission statement and list of values, I’ve also done the vast work of distilling my education, experience and services into a highly useful dossier, and I’ve made course-altering discoveries about my category, competition, target, advantage and brand behavior.

And while I was passively and actively engaged in this illuminating process, I discovered another thing: nearly everyone I talked to about what I was doing expressed a real hunger for doing something similar for their own professional purposes. And while I’m probably surrounded by a more-then-average number of creative generalists in their forties who are still trying to figure out what they want to do when they grow up—I’m pretty sure it’s a zeitgeist thing, too. Because in the Warsaw of Plac Zbawiciela in 2014, it’s en vogue to be a this-slash-that, and it’s definitely catching on to try and be in business for yourself strategically and with mindfulness.

Another interesting thing I noted is that as I progressed through the sequence of strategic questions and prompts, I gained insight about the questions and prompts, thus developing the strategic guide itself in tandem with creating the content. Of course it’s the kind of thing that lends itself to feedback loopery every time it is deployed, so I’m not about to call it a final version, but it is a solid version, and if you’d like to give it a try and apply it to your professional brand or anything else you’d like to define, understand and render optimal—go ahead and help yourself to either language below.

And if your interested in the specifics of the Company of Natalia Osiatynska brand strategy—just let me know, and we can meet for a coffee or a Skype and I’ll walk you through it. Really, don’t be shy; I’m pretty sure this is going to be my favorite thing to talk about for a long time to come.

BRAND STRATEGY GUIDE

POMOCNIK STRATEGICZNY

Neighbors wanted

Do you love being at one with nature? Do you yearn for a serene retreat in the heart of a primeval forest less than an hour’s drive from downtown Warsaw? If your answer is yes , feel free to investigate the notice below. I can’t say much about the cabin for sale—but I can sure vouch for the neighbors down the lane, if you know what I mean.

(To be clear, I’ve never actually met the folks selling the cabin, though one time a gentleman who was visiting them did come running to help me remove an enormous spider from our kitchen sink.)

 View of the cabin for sale from our cabin’s bedroom terrace. Photo taken with the Apple iPhone 4S.

A hilltop cabin for sale along in the woods near Radzymin, Mazowieckie. Photo taken with the Apple iPhone 4S.

Disclaimer

Since I joined Facebook last winter, I  have observed a problem with the dialectic of Facebook “liking” whenever somber themes are concerned—bereavement, political unrest, tragedy. After all, the term invariably evokes an ebullience that seems out of place when one wants to appreciate the fact of a post (or pay one’s respects, as the case may be) without being overly cheerful (or cheerful in the slightest) about it. So yes, sometimes I “like” your status update, but I’m not laughing at it, not smirking, not cheering, not feeling happy when I consider what it means. Sometimes my “like” is a somber, quiet one, okay?

058758575130

The ubiquitous Polish domofon keypad features numbers with distinct tones, thus allowing for the playback of simple melodies.

The ubiquitous Polish domofon keypad features numbers with distinct tones, thus allowing for the playback of simple melodies.

This one is for the folks in Poland who enjoy the occasional pointless surprise. All you need is one of those ubiquitous black building intercom keypads and maybe a good memory for numbers, if you’re up to the challenge. Enter the digits 058758575130 in sequence and you will hear a familiar melody (possibly to the delight of a passerby who will surely think that you must be a fascinating person). And don’t worry about accidentally ringing, say, apartment 058—just use the key below the digit 9 to disconnect when you are done.

Where did I get this? A few years ago I was that impressed passerby when a guy was showing off for his date in Warsaw’s Różana. Neither of them minded when I swooped in for my little interview, and I’ve been entertaining friends and strangers with this one ever since. 

Brownies: a recipe and an opinion

Chilled brownies carved into tiny unctuous squares and served on a cold slab of granite. Photo taken in daylight with the Leica X1.

Chilled brownies carved into tiny unctuous squares and served on a cold slab of granite. Photo taken in daylight with the Leica X1.

Brownies, it is taught, are not small flat squares of chocolate cake. With no chemical leaveners and no aeration, they are (or should be) more of a cross between cookies and fudge, dense and solid and just gooey enough. What’s more, with simple ingredients, a one-bowl mixing method, no beating until fluffy and a high tolerance for inexactness, they are one American classic that defies the usual laws of baking, shockingly easy to make even for the novice baker. Brownies are also wonderfully adaptable to additions of flavor extracts, spices, toasted nuts, candy bits, dried fruit or candied citrus peel (orange in particular, if you ask me).

For years the brownies I made at home fell short of the ideal sold at upscale coffee shops, though invariably all my attempts constituted a delicious chocolate delivery system of one kind or another. There were cocoa powder brownies, olive oil brownies and (most often) Mark Bittman’s classic brownies from How to Cook Everything, but none produced that rich density I was after (though all came closest when served cold). And then one day I tried the last recipe I ever tried, from the Baked bakery's debut cookbook. Lush, easy—perfect. In time, I went on to streamline their formula and adapt it to both my palate and the standard size of a package of butter in Poland. Here it is, with a three-way ingredient list featuring quantities calculated for different pan sizes (and appetites).

I should note that a friend of mine claims that my brownies are too moist and chewy. Not crumbly or delicate enough, she says (sometimes even as she’s reaching for the next brownie). So if you want delicate, you might prefer to get yourself a slice of chocolate cake or a muffin or something. This heavy solidity here? If you ask me—it’s what makes a brownie a brownie.

browniesrecipeosiatynska.png

Preheat the oven to 175°C. Line your baking pan with a layer of baking paper or aluminum foil. Place the butter in a medium saucepan over low heat and add the salt. When the butter has melted, turn off the heat and add the chocolate, allowing it to melt gently. Stir to combine and add the sugar without beating in any air. Next make sure that both the mixture and pan have cooled a bit and add the eggs and vanilla. Mix very well, but do not beat or whisk. Add the flour (unsifted) and the cocoa (sifted to break up any lumps) and mix thoroughly without overmixing.

Bonus: no-mess prep in a single saucepan.

If you want to add fruit or nuts, now is the time. Pour into the prepared pan and bake in a preheated oven for 25-35 minutes or until done. A toothpick inserted near the edges should come out nearly clean. The center needs to be set but still moist enough to make you wonder if it’s a little but underdone.

You can dig in right away. A fresh-from-the-oven warm brownie is a decadent treat, especially in a dessert bowl with glugs of fudge sauce and mounds of vanilla ice cream. But for me the real magic happens when you chill your brownie overnight and serve it straight from the fridge, carved into bite-sized cubes truffle-style. That to me is the ultimate textural chocolate experience.
 

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